Meet Mr. Michael Connolly | Physical Education Teacher | KIPP DC Inspire Academy
We are excited to announce that Mr. Michael Connolly, the physical education teacher at Inspire Academy, is being recognized for September’s Staff Spotlight! He is a native of Detroit, Michigan, and earned his undergraduate degree from Baldwin Wallace University. Having worked in the field of education for over seven years before joining KIPP DC, Michael has made a significant impact at Inspire Academy since joining us this past year.
Aside from providing our students with a foundational physical education program, Michael also brings his athletic skills to KIPP DC as he coaches various sports, such as football and track. He talked about his professional journey and how he enjoys working with his students during a recent sit-down.
What led you to want to work with KIPP DC?
“When I moved here, I wasn’t familiar with the schools in DC, but when I worked at my first school, all I could hear everyone say was how great KIPP was and how it was the place to be. At first, I was like, “who’s KIPP? He must be a cool teacher.” Then I realized they were talking about KIPP DC Public Schools. One of my close colleagues eventually went to teach at one of the KIPP DC Schools. I had a chance to ask how everything was going at the new school; he said he felt like a teacher again and loved the atmosphere. When I interviewed here with Donyale Butler, I liked her energy from the things I heard about her, and then coming in and meeting the staff and just getting to know everyone was such a welcoming feeling. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been much happier as a teacher. I feel respected and appreciated for what I do for the school.”
How have you grown in your time at KIPP DC?
“With this being a newer subject I’m teaching, I had to do much reflection. I asked for many observations, and the feedback I always got was very constructive. It helped me take a step back and evaluate what I may have needed to change. I can give instructions one way in a classroom, but I have to provide instructions another way in a gym. KIPP DC has influenced me to expand on how I go through different lessons with different classes. It has helped me understand working with children more effectively because the coaching and feedback I’ve received from my administration and peers have been beneficial.”
What is your favorite thing about KIPP DC students?
“This is my 8th year teaching, and there are some schools where kids are not happy. I’ve taught public and charter in three different cities, so I’ve seen it. But the kids are so sweet and glad to be here at KIPP DC. I really do enjoy our kids. They make teaching much more fun for me.”
How do you foster a sense of belonging in your class?
“With me teaching PE, I revolve many things around teamwork. We play many team games, and they have many opportunities to help build and work with one another. I also give them opportunities to reflect with their team to see what worked well and didn’t work well for their teammates. I try to instill the mindset that you win and lose as a team. I like to use an acronym called FAIL. It’s our first attempt in learning. Some questions asked are, “Why did we fail? How can we not fail again?” Ensuring they’re in the mindset of problem-solving and thinking with their groups to foster that sense of belonging.”
What’s a school sport or activity you enjoy watching?
“My favorite sports as a coach are football, track, and volleyball. I like that we have many opportunities for our kids to get extracurriculars going at the elementary level to test their athleticism and see what they’re good at. Prepping them for high school and eager to participate in different activities. Many kids don’t get into sports until they’re in high school, so I do like that we present those opportunities for our students at an early stage.”
If you could take your students on a field trip anywhere in the world, where would you take them?
“It would be a sporting event! I’d say the World Cup or the Super Bowl. In Cleveland, I had a donor who worked for the Cavaliers. They would donate court-side seats for us all the time. It was cool to take these kids to sporting events and see how much fun they had. Taking my students into an atmosphere like a Super Bowl or a World Cup would be a memorable experience.”
If you could pass on any piece of wisdom to your students, what would it be?
“If I can tell them one thing, it would be to trust the process. As a teacher, I’m starting to push myself to do more so they understand the rationale behind things. When I was in school, I asked myself what I would use geometry for. I believe getting students to trust the process, and everything we do has a reason, will help them thrive.”
KIPP DC proudly honors Mr. Michael Connolly as our September Staff Spotlight. He is an inspirational individual who has significantly impacted our community.